“Rachel?” The woman of his dreams was standing before him. He would have fled if she wasn’t holding him.
“Yes,” she smiled some more, then let him go. She checked her outfit in a professional way then turned to her two companions at the circulation desk. She gave a dismissive wave to say get back to work. She looked back at Carlton smiling, “Carlton, wow, I mean, it’s been a long time. How are you?“
“Rachel.” Carlton reached to shake her had and looked into her eyes. “It’s really good to see you.“ Rachel blushed slightly and looked away. He held her hand for a moment, until she shook free. She focused on the computer terminal. “Are you finished? I mean, we have to have this thing turned on and running before the folks come in.”
“Sure, you’re all set.” He regained his composure. She nudged passed him and stood at the terminal, hit the power switch and waited. Carlton smelled perfume, fabric softener and woman. A pump began humming, then a trickle as fluid coursed through the fine tubing that Carlton had installed. Beneath the monitor was conduit box that Carlton had not put the cover on. It was possible to see some of the internal working of the computer. There were clear plastic tubes connected to the motherboard, and red liquid crept along them, flowing into the terminal.
“Is it real blood?” she asked Carlton quietly.
“Oh no,” he said dismissively, trying to cover a lie. “Well, parts of it were once.” He knew that she did not believe him so he tried to remake his answer. “It’s a souped up blend, the red blood cells are real, and the platelets and stuff. But it’s mixed with a special plasma-like fluid that works as a coolant and lubricant.”
“Well, err plasma. From volunteers.” He wished she would stop.
“Of course,” he frowned beginning to get irritated. “He should be ready.”
Ruth leaned in close to him and whispered, “Are you sure she’s a he?”
“Oh yes,” he nodded emphatically, “He’s a he all right, just you wait.”
Ruth straightened up and addressed the console, “Can you hear me?”
There was a slight hiss that drew into a ragged wheeze, like the labored breath of a dying man. It coughed, and seemed to clear it’s throat.
“Yes,” came a man’s voice from the console, “I can hear you.”
“Hello, my name is Rachel Robbins, I will be your programmer. We are in the records section of the municipal library in Salt City, Utah. Have you accessed your primary commands?”
“Yes,” the voice strengthened and had a deep resonance.
“See!” Carlton mouthed.
Rachel began a sequence of checks with the machine. Carlton began to clean up his tools ready to leave. He still couldn’t believe it. Rachel Robbins, after all this time. And wearing a skirt. The glasses were gone, but it was Rachel Robbins. Who would have thought.
As he made for the door, Rachel called to him.
“Wait, I only have a few left,” she indicated her clipboard, “Can you hang on for a few minutes?”
“Sure,” Carlton smiled. Sure he could wait around for a few minutes, for the woman who had occupied his daydreams for years.
When Rachel finished it was quite a bit later, but she was cheerful when she at last turned her attention fully to Carlton.
“I ’d really like to talk about the computer, but I’m hungry, need a cup of coffee, and you probably do too?” she raised her eyebrows emphatically.
This was getting better and better. Now he was about to get to go sit down in a Café with this women.
“You must be a genius, I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.”
“Great, where’s a good place to go, I’m new in town.”